Hepatitis C infection induces cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies that, in some cases, prevent primary infection in animal models. Neutralizing antibodies target the HVR1 of the E2 glycoprotein, and a conserved region at the C-terminus of HVR1 determines cross-reactivity. The humoral immune response appears to be the driving force leading to variability in HVR1, resulting in emergence of escape mutants and persistence of HCV infection. Advances in understanding the humoral response to HCV could facilitate development of a vaccine for hepatitis C as well as an effective HCIG preparation containing cross-reactive neutralizing antibodies to HCV.
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